Blunt anti-sex assault ads target men

A new series of provocative anti-date rape ads take aim at men with a simple and direct message: "Don't Be that Guy."
Two posters are shown from a newly launched Ottawa campaign directed at men to end sexual assault. ((Don't Be That Guy campaign))

A new series of provocative, anti-date rape ads take aim at men with a simple and direct message: Don't Be That Guy.

That's the name of the new campaign launched Thursday by Ottawa Police, the Rape Crisis Centre and other agencies. Several downtown bars have already agreed to put up the posters, which bear some straight-talking taglines.

On one poster, a young woman is shown passed out on a couch with an empty wine glass in her hand. The caption reads: "Just because she isn't saying no, doesn't mean she's saying yes."

Another states: "Just because she's drunk, doesn't mean she wants to f**k."

Ads speak to young men

The point is to shift the focus of the advertisements towards potential male offenders, said criminology professor Holly Johnson. Until now, she added, most messages are warnings to women about how to stay safe.

"They say exactly what we want to say to young men. That is, 'sex without consent is sexual assault; doesn't matter if she's intoxicated,'" said Johnson, who researches ways to prevent alcohol-related sexual violence.

"We don't speak to our young men about avoiding sexual violence, and about making sure she's consenting and what that means."

The posters were designed in Edmonton, where young men were consulted for input. The feedback helped to develop ads that strike a balance between straight talk, while stopping short of portraying all men as rapists.

'It will shock'

Steve Manuk, who co-chairs the Byward Market's safety and security committee, and owns more than a dozen bars, said he appreciates the new campaign, though he expects it may shock some patrons.

"I think it's a great campaign. I think it's something that should be talked about," he said. "It will shock them, but I don't think that's the point. The point is to get your message across."

Organizers hope that a successful campaign will remind men to not only discuss the problem of sexual assault, but intervene if they ever witness it happening.

To learn more about the campaign, visit

With files from the CBC's Giacomo Panico